Georgina Crayford  -  Reducing antibiotic use in pig production - is there a need for systemic change?

AHDB Pork

Following my undergraduate degree in Bioveterinary Science at University of Liverpool, I stayed on to do a PhD on Salmonella in pigs, which was kindly funded by BPEX. And hence began my interest and involvement in the pig industry (I suppose I should point out here that I do not come from a farming background). I didn’t feel quite suited to academia and so on completion of my PhD I pursued a career within industry as that’s where I felt I would most likely be able to affect change. Via a short stint at the levy board AHDB Pork, I took on my current role as a Senior Policy Adviser at the National Pig Association. 

The National Pig Association is a small, but effective organisation that is affiliated to the NFU. We represent the interests of our commercial pig producer members and lobby on their behalf to actively promote British pork and ensure legislation doesn’t adversely affect them. I’ve been working at the NPA for over 2 years now and continue to thoroughly enjoy working for such an active organisation that achieves real benefits for pig producers.

I grew up in Kent, where I’ve now returned to live after my studies. Not only am I passionate about farming, but also about food and so I spend a lot of my spare time cooking and eating with friends and family. I also love to grow my own vegetables in my garden. Oh and I’m learning to play the trumpet!

I am extremely grateful to the sponsor of my Nuffield Scholarship, AHDB Pork, and looking forward to embarking on this exciting journey.

 

The use of antibiotics in agriculture has become a politically hot topic. Publication of the recent O'Neill Review into antimicrobial resistance put the issue on the global agenda and consequently a declaration to tackle this growing problem was signed by the UN. The O'Neill report makes a number of recommendations including the setting of reduction targets and restriction of the use of certain antibiotics that are critical to human health for treating animals.

The British pig industry has done a lot of groundwork to prepare itself for impending restrictions on antibiotic use, but now it has the challenging task of delivering real and sustainable reductions without jeopardising pig health and welfare. I believe there is much that can be learnt about different approaches to reducing antibiotic use from around the world, from both farming and perhaps human medicine, that would be invaluable to UK agriculture.

Some countries have made impressive progress in reducing their antibiotic use in pig production, while others are miles behind. There are some NGOs who believe that reliance on antibiotics can only be reduced by moving away from intensive pig production and reverting to traditional, extensive systems. I would like to explore this concept by looking at how other countries have managed to achieve reductions and how others are planning to.  I am also keen to see what can be learnt from social science about how to influence farmer behaviour when it comes to use of antibiotics and management of herd health.